This exhibit consists of 50 works of mixed-media collage, assemblage on wood panels, and sculpture that reimagine safe destinations for the black American traveler during the mid-twentieth century. The body of work was inspired by The Negro Motorist Green Book, an annual guidebook for black American road-trippers published by New York postal worker Victor Hugo Green from 1936 to 1967, during the Jim Crow era in America.

a small scale house with the front door open and warm light emanating from the door and windows
Derrick Adams, Beacon 3, 2018, concrete, wood, paper, and light fixture. Courtesy the artist and Gagosian.

Referred to simply as The Green Book in its day, the publication served as a guide to finding businesses—particularly hotels, restaurants, state parks, beauty parlors, and nightclubs—that were welcoming to black Americans during an era when open and often legally prescribed discrimination against nonwhites was widespread. These designated safe spaces were places of refuge and leisure, where one could spend quality time with friends and family. The depiction of black America at leisure is a theme of continued interest to Adams, who explores how engaging in leisure as a form of relaxation and reflection can be a political act when embraced by members of black or working-class communities.

a light wood panel adorned with fabric, paper, and paint to suggest brick buildings and urban landscapes
Derrick Adams, Upscale and/or Lowbrow, 2018, fabric, acrylic paint, wood, and paper on wood panel. Courtesy the artist and Gagosian.

Derrick Adams: Sanctuary reflects on the plight of working-class black people before and during the Civil Rights Movement, and their determination to pursue the same American Dream afforded to others.

Derrick Adams: Sanctuary is organized by Dexter Wimberly and Derrick Adams Studio. The exhibit was originally presented at the Museum of Arts and Design, New York, and was curated with support from MAD’s Curator of Collections Samantha De Tillio.

Get to Know: Derrick Adams

A short curated list of videos featuring artist Derrick Adams talking about his work.

Derrick Adams

Derrick Adams: I Can Show You Better Than I Can Tell You

Derrick Adams x Jay-Z: Heir to the Throne

Amanda Williams and Derrick Adams | In Conversation | Gagosian Quarterly

Additional Resources